This resource answers questions that many patients have about Mohs surgery. If you have a question that is not covered here, please talk to your doctor or nurse.
What is Mohs surgery?
Mohs surgery is done to treat skin cancer. During the surgery, layers of cancerous tissue are removed and examined in the lab. These steps are repeated until all of the cancerous tissue is removed.
The goal of Mohs surgery is to remove the skin cancer, while doing minimal damage to the healthy tissue around the cancer.
What are the advantages of Mohs surgery?
- It is the most effective type of surgery to treat skin cancer.
- Cancerous tissue is removed without affecting surrounding normal tissue.
- Normal tissue is saved, which can limit scarring.
- It is done on an outpatient basis, so you will not have to be admitted to the hospital.
What are the possible risks of Mohs surgery?
Any type of surgery will leave a scar, but we will try to minimize it. Other risks of Mohs surgery are uncommon. They include:
- Slow or poor wound healing
- Infection or bleeding
- Numbness at the surgery site
- Regrowth of the tumor (previously treated, large, or long-standing tumors are most likely to regrow)
How do I prepare for Mohs surgery?
You will receive written instructions to follow before your surgery. Your nurse will review them with you. We will contact you 2 to 3 days before your surgery to confirm your appointment and answer any questions you have.
Should I bring someone with me?
Yes, we recommend that you bring a friend or family member. If this is not possible, tell your nurse.
What type of anesthesia (medication to minimize pain) will I receive?
You will be awake during your surgery. A local anesthetic will be injected into your skin to numb the cancer area.
You should not feel any pain during your surgery.
What will happen during Mohs surgery?
- The cancerous tissue and a thin layer of surrounding tissue will be removed.
- A bandage will be placed on your wound and you will be taken to a waiting area.
- While you wait, you can relax and eat light snacks.
- The removed tissue will be processed in the lab and your doctor will examine it.
- If cancer cells are found at the edge of the removed tissue, a second layer of tissue will be removed.
- These steps will be repeated until the edges are clear of cancer cells.
How long will Mohs surgery take?
It will take about 15 minutes to remove a layer of tissue and 60 minutes or more to process the tissue in the lab. If multiple layers need to be removed, you may have to spend several hours or half a day at the hospital.
What happens after all the cancer is removed?
After all the cancer is removed, your doctor will determine the best way for your wound to heal. There are several ways your wound can heal after Mohs surgery, including:
- Allowing the wound to heal by itself
- Stitching the wound closed
- Creating a skin graft or flap to close the wound
- Having a specialized surgeon close the wound
Your doctor will tell you which method may be best for you. You will have a chance to discuss your options and make a final decision.
How do I take care of my wound?
Your nurse will give you written instructions and review them with you after your surgery.
Will I experience pain after the surgery?
Most patients do not experience pain after Mohs surgery. If you have any pain or discomfort, you can take extra strength acetaminophen (Tylenol®). Do not take aspirin or ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®). They interfere with blood clotting.
When will I need to see my doctor again?
You will need to see your doctor several times after your surgery. How often will depend on the size of the cancer and location of your surgery. Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to schedule your appointments.